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Cumberlands hosts annual Zuspan Lecture series


Williamsburg, Ky. – On Monday, March 7, University of the Cumberlands’ (UC) Health, Exercise, and Sport Science (HESS) and Biology departments held their annual Zuspan Lecture series. This year’s guest speaker was Dr. Catherine Craker, assistant professor of biological sciences at Ohio Northern University (ONU).

This year’s topic, “Bugs that Carry Bugs: Vector-Borne Diseases,” focused on the importance of understanding and breaking the transmission cycles of vector-borne diseases, specifically those carried by mosquitoes and ticks.

“If you truly understand how disease spreads, often a very simple intervention can break that deadly cycle and save millions of lives,” said Craker. “Knowledge is power and understanding the transmission cycles is key to controlling these diseases.”

During the lecture Craker shared information about several diseases and their transmission cycle with their vectors. She also shared the life cycles of the vectors and tips to help prevent and eliminate the spread of the diseases. Craker focused on diseases like Lyme, yellow fever, malaria and the West Nile virus.

She went on to share that mosquitoes will breed in standing water, even a bottle cap full, and an important step to eliminating malaria and other diseases spread by mosquitoes is to get rid of standing water around your yard. Craker also relayed valuable information about ticks, an arachnid that is prevalent in parts of southeast Kentucky.

Craker ended the lecture with a success story about Guinea worm disease and its near-eradication from the globe, accomplished through education, provision of clean water and without the use of drugs or vaccines. She believes that, with time and education, vector-borne diseases can also be abated.

“Hopefully students gained a sense of the impact arthropod vectors can have on human health, and how and why certain groups of arthropods make good disease vectors, and what kinds of environmental influences can lead to outbreaks of vector-borne disease,” said Craker.

Cracker was born in Vallejo, Calif. and has been fascinated by biology since she was two. “My mom had to chase after me to keep me from picking up spiders,” she recalled. She went on to get a Bachelor’s degree in biology with a double major in anthropology from Emory University and a Ph. D in Biology from the University of Notre Dame. She currently teaches epidemiology, anatomy labs, introductory biology and nutrition at ONU.

UC’s annual Zuspan Lecture is sponsored by Perinatal Resources, Inc. (Hilliard, Ohio) in honor of its former president, the late Dr. Fredrick Zuspan. Each year, the lecture focuses on a health issue of particular interest to the southeast Kentucky region.

Located in Williamsburg, Ky., University of the Cumberlands is an institution of regional distinction, which currently offers four undergraduate degrees more than 40 major fields of study; nine pre-professional programs; seven graduate degrees, including a doctorate and six master’s degrees; certifications in education; and online programs.